Cold weather is behind us. May signals a more stable weather pattern, warmer weather, and hot fishing in Central Florida. Postspawn bass, stripers, spawning shellcracker, and spawning catfish are the freshwater targets this month.
Bass – Early morning schooling bass can be found at first light near the St. Johns River mouths of Lake Harney and Lake Monroe. Bass will readily eat the live shad if you can cast net some. This year the Heddon Spook Jr in bone color has been the topwater bait of choice. After the early bite, focus on deeper edges near lily pads or eel grass with Carolina rigged soft plastics – use dark colors. Live shiners are always good, wild shiners are best.
Stripers – Fishing seasons are running about a month behind due to the late cold snaps in March. Look for stripers to shadow schools of shad in the lakes. Use the same shad imitation hard baits above. Sunshine bass have broken lines that easily identify them.
Panfish – All day catching limits bestow the anglers with patience and a big can of red worms. The spawn is on for shellcrackers. Target them along sandy shorelines anchoring before or after the bends in the St Johns near the bank in 3-8 feet of water. Hook size should be #4; weight the wiggler to the bottom with one or two split shots. Fly anglers using poppers will enjoy all day action.
Catfish – Bring on the rains! April is typically the lowest water level during the year; May is when levels begin to rise. One to three days following a big rain, the water begins rushing from the creeks into the St Johns River system flowing north. This signals catfish to swim upstream to spawn. Peeled fresh shrimp on a 2/0 circle hook works great in the river or creek bends.